A fascinating New York Times article argues that we need to take parking lots more seriously as architecture or public space, in part because they are slowly overwhelming us.
“As the critic Lewis Mumford wrote half a century ago, ‘The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is the right to destroy the city.’ Yet we continue to produce parking lots, in cities as well as in suburbs, in the same way we consume all those billions of plastic bottles of water and disposable diapers.”
From the NYTimes, by Michael Kimmelman:
“New Yorkers should love bicycling. We’re control freaks. We want to get from here to there in a New York minute and moan about the subways and the buses, about lunatic taxi drivers and the gridlock that slows us down.
It’s too bad that so many New Yorkers still complain about the bike lanes’ contribution to the inconvenience of urban driving instead of promoting them for their obvious role in helping solve the city’s transportation miseries, and for their aesthetic possibilities. I don’t mean they’re great to look at. I mean that for users they offer a different way of taking in the city, its streets and architecture, the fine-grained fabric of its neighborhoods. Decades ago the architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown wrote about how we see cities differently at different speeds. Las Vegas was their example, and they wrote about driving versus walking (skipping over the bicycle). But the point stands. On a bike time bends. Space expands and contracts.
I’ve had plenty of accidents over the years and know that it may sound a little crazy to talk about meditating on urban scenery when the issue is crashing into double-parked cars, abruptly opened taxi doors and reckless riders, which is where properly designed and enforced bike lanes come in, or increasingly will, as their network grows…
At the moment the lanes are disjointed, often badly marked and hardly policed, provoking antipathy and occasional chaos in the streets. Consolidating them will require a consistent, identifiable design vocabulary, a permanent architecture. This has to include more dedicated lanes, separated from automobile traffic by medians and parked cars, a feature that improves safety — as it already has along Ninth Avenue, for instance — and getting riders, drivers and pedestrians to follow the rules of the road. Cultural shifts like that take time. Bike riders especially need to follow those rules.
European cities have had decades to develop cycling cultures. The Dutch and the Danes are said to be among the happiest people on earth, which I can’t help but imagine must have something to do with their bike culture. You find bicycle clubs for the elderly there, clusters of teenage boys with girls perched on the backs of their bikes, commuters chatting along the bike paths, which provide a natural mix of intimacy and distance. On a bike, the city shrinks.”
If you are not yet familiar with the underground subway art “Underbelly Project,” you should check out this New York Times article.
If you are familiar with the project (and you are a big fan like myself) you will be excited to hear that the organizers, Workhorse and PAC, are putting together a book.
Since the existence of the project had been announced publicly in the Times article, the NYPD has arrested people who tried to find the entrance to the abandoned station and those who made it inside have reported that the work had been defaced. Luckily, the art was well-documented before the project was publicized and the organizers have an extensive collection of photos and videos.
Over 100 street artists from around the world were involved; several of them Subway Art Blog veterans, including: Posterchild, Jason Eppink and CASH4.
We Own the Night: The Art of the Underbelly Project is expected to be 240 pages and is set for release on February 7th, 2012.
Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.com.
NYT: Subway ridership is up, even as service is down. I can believe every word, even the insane statistic that the Bedford Ave stop retains 90% of its ridership on the weekend! I’m still glad they do most construction work on the weekends—people going to the beach or shopping are less likely to start breaking things if their train is late than people on their way to work—but it seems to make less and less of a difference, eg. when there was work being done on the L train during Memorial Weekend!
(Side note, why does the NYT often post a City Room feature on the exact same topic as a full article, at the exact same time? I really do want someone to explain this to me.)
Benjamin Kabak weighs in, and includes this nice image.